Let’s have a conversation, not a confrontation. Consumers want to know what they are feeding themselves and their families and they have a right to know exactly that. So, let’s engage in a conversation by first listening. 

Open Our Ears

Only one in five consumers even care that we are feeding the world and this has been a consistent ratio for many years. So work with what they want to know, and to do that we must listen first. 
We need to hear their concerns and acknowledge what it is they’re saying. Ask questions regarding what they are saying to make sure we understand and then lead off with an authentic, relatable, story. Be on the same ground by placing ourselves in their shoes, for instance, as a mother we all want what’s best for our families. So share the fact that we are eating the same food we are providing them. 

Then Open Our Mouths

When telling the story start with the why and what we do, make it more personal and relate to them. Most of the time we start off with the how, of what we do and we need to change this scenario around. It’s the 'why' they really need to hear first to make it more relatable to them. Then we need to go ahead and explain the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ we do it also. 
It’s important to keep things simple as most of the population is so far removed from agriculture and don’t understand our industry jargon, we lose their attention before we even get started. 
Shared values are three to five times stronger than facts and it takes four positively perceived statements to make up for one single negative thing that is said. Be honest and real with them, we must acknowledge that there are bad producers out there. Then explain how we are changing that. 

Social Media Savvy

It’s important to use social media because it’s not going away; it’s the fastest way to get our story out there.
Always be authentic. You want to tell what’s unique about you and your operation, what you have to offer, what your story is and why it’s important.
Know your audience and what your intentions are; do you want to connect with just your followers or general consumers? Build that base intentionally.
What is it you want to discuss, and how can you incorporate hash tags (or pound signs for some of us)?
When engaging in a conversation, don’t assume bad intent, work to find common ground.
Keep your facts front and center and stay calm. Make your argument and acknowledge when the other side has a valid point.
Learn from the other side, because sometimes this can be our best source of ammunition to get the outcome we’re looking for.
Remember, sometimes you just need to walk away from the conversation. There are people out there that are simply there to stir up trouble no matter what and you will never get ahead of them. Trolls will be trolls and it’s best to just block them.
Use polls on your page to see what people are interested in seeing, and try to have fun with it--you'll be more inclined to keep it going!
Darcia Patten is a member of the MFBF Promotion & Education Committee & Powder River-Carter County Farm Bureau president. She co-owns Graham Mt Ranch with her husband Ward.